Mel Gibson has earned the Oscars' attention with "Hacksaw Ridge."

Mel Gibson has earned the Oscars' attention with "Hacksaw Ridge." Credit: Getty Images / Frazer Harrison

We’ve known him as the rugged drifter Mad Max, crazy cop Martin Riggs and Scottish warrior William Wallace, but these days Mel Gibson is playing a new role: The Comeback Kid.

It all started in the mid-2000s, when Gibson, riding high on a string of hits, including the light comedy “What Women Want” and M. Night Shyamalan’s “Signs,” embarked on one of the most memorable meltdowns in celebrity history. During a 2006 arrest for drunken driving, Gibson reportedly made lewd sexual comments and anti-Semitic remarks to the officers, an incident that was followed by a string of news stories about offensive utterances new and old, including a racist voicemail to a former girlfriend.

Whether Gibson was truly “blacklisted” in Hollywood for his behavior isn’t clear, but he certainly experienced a lost decade — a stretch in which he did little more than star in a major flop (“The Beaver”) and take small roles in such non-classics as “The Expendables 3.” Finally, in 2014, Robert Downey Jr. stepped up for Gibson, telling the industry publication Deadline that Gibson had become “a fundamentally different guy.” Downey also swore to appear in “Iron Man 4” only if Gibson were allowed to direct.

That hasn’t happened yet, but Gibson did direct last year’s “Hacksaw Ridge,” starring Andrew Garfield as a real-life pacifist soldier in World War II. With its nonviolent message, strong Christian imagery and searing battle sequences, “Hacksaw Ridge” became a box-office success and earned Gibson high praise for his filmmaking prowess. The movie is now a best picture Oscar contender and Gibson is in the running for best director, a remarkable return for this once-dimmed star.

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